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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                     287
at the front in those days, about a young soldier in a
dugout longing for his sweetheart.
"Do you know The Ash-Tree?" his companion in-
quired, interrupting him.
The youth nodded and started the old song. A look
of sadness crossed the senior lieutenant's tired, dusty
face.
"You are not singing it right, old man," he said. "It's
not a comic song. You've got to put your heart into it."
And he picked up the melody in a soft, very low, but
clear voice.
The driver stopped for a moment and the post-woman
got out of the cabin. She stepped on the wheel and with a
light spring jumped into the body of the truck where she
was caught by strong, friendly arms.
"I heard you singing, so I thought I'd join you___"
And so they sang in trio, to the accompaniment of the
rattling of the truck and the zealous chirping of the grass-
hoppers.
The youth let himself go. He took a big mouth-organ
from his kit-bag, and playing on it one moment and
waving it like a baton and joining in the singing another,
he acted as the conductor. And on this depressing and
now abandoned road, like a whip-lash among the dusty,
luxuriant, all-conquering weeds, rang out the powerful
and mournful strains of a song as old and as new as these
fields languishing in the summer heat, as the vigorous
chirping of the grasshoppers in the warm, fragrant grass,
as the larks' singing in the clear, summer sky, and as that
lofty and infinite sky itself.
They were so taken up with their singing that they
were nearly jerked out of the truck when the driver sud-
denly braked. The truck pulled up in the middle of the
road. In the roadside ditch lay an overturned three-ton
truck, its dusty wheels in the air. The youth turned pale,
but his companion climbed over the side and hurried
towards the ditch. He walked with a queer, springy,
waddling step. A moment later the mail-truck driver was
pulling out of the cabin of the overturned truck the blood-
stained body of a quartermaster captain. His face was
cut and scratched, evidently by broken glass, and was of
an ashen hue. The senior lieutenant lifted his eyelid.